Vera-Fi Caldera 10-inch active subwoofer

Whether you are listening to two, or multiple channels, chances are your system will benefit from additional low frequency output. Adding a subwoofer is a deceptively simple thing that doesn’t always deliver the desired results, regardless of the price asked.

The Vera-Fi Scout speakers ($299pair) we recently reviewed HERE, are typical in the sense that they need more bass, but atypical in the level of quality delivered for their $299 price. The new Caldera Subwoofer reviewed here is a perfect match for the Scouts, and works well with a wide range of other small-ish speakers too. The value proposition at $199 is off the chart good.

We have a full review in process, using the 10” Caldera with a number of small speakers, as well as the small Magnepan .7s. A number of internet pundits suggest these work well with Magnepan speakers, so we reserve judgement until our used pair of .7s arrive from The Music Room.

Thanks to the small form factor, the Caldera works equally well under a desk and out in a room. Using the test sample, in the corner of an 11 x 13 foot room, it provides a rock solid base to the Scouts, that can’t be beat.

The line level (RCA) inputs are great in a desktop system, or to keep a speaker with very little low frequency output from bottoming it’s woofer cone. A vintage pair of ADS 300s worked best in this configuration. Being a REL guy, I prefer to run the main speakers full range and take advantage of the high level speaker inputs – which delivers a more open presentation. But hey, this is a hobby, right? Try the configuration that delivers the best results in your system. (PS: we will have in-depth setup tips in the full review – start with it in the corner for now and adjust to best integration)

With 200 watts on tap, and a variable crossover that can be set from 20-200 Hz, you should be able to integrate the Caldera with anything. Cruising through a playlist of bass-heavy tracks, comprising some hip-hop, prog, and classic rock, all deliver excellent results. If you can resist the urge to turn the volume control up too far, you’ll be mighty impressed with how much this little sub can truly offer in terms of total system musicality.

Fortunately, the Caldera is light enough to allow easy movement in your room to achieve sonic results that will deliver the most bass output and the most seamless integration with your main speakers.

Highly recommended.


Pass Labs’ XA60.8 Monoblocks

Of course, the big news is that now you can get Pass components in black. This is a good thing considering how many people have passed on conrad-johnson gear over the years because the champagne color does not match anything else in their system.

The more significant news is how great these amplifiers sound. though these are Pass Labs’ smallest monoblock amplifiers, they still weigh about 90 pounds per chassis. If you aren’t familiar, each Pass amplifier always has its own unique sonic character, and the XA60.8s is no different – with the pair having much of the lush, texture-laden presentation of the XA25, combined with the LF grip and control, offered by the larger Class-A monoblocks.

Incidentally, this is what the “A” designation means. The XA60 monos are claimed to deliver 60 watts per channel into an 8-ohm load in full class-A

conditions. Other magazines that produce measurements confirm this to be true, revealing these amplifiers can produce over double this amount of power before distortion sets in.

The catch? They gently switch their bias current to class-AB operation. The big, blue circular meter on the front panel stays in the middle of its range while the amplifier stays in class-A mode, bouncing to the right as it exits into class-AB.

When driving MartinLogan ESP 9s, the Team Fink Borg (episode 2), and the Clarisys Audio Auditorium Plus speakers, the meters never left the center position. Only when driving the new power-hungry Magnepan 2.7X speakers were we able to push the XA60.8s into class-AB mode.

In short, the definition throughout the frequency range is incredible, with an equally sublime rendition of higher frequencies to match. Pass Labs’ class-A amplifiers all have a mid-band rendition that nearly fools you into thinking you’re listening to tubes, and these amplifiers even a bit more. The level of detail, layering, and ability to create a three-dimensional sound field is incredible – the lessons learned in creating the flagship XS Monos certainly are at work here.

Having used nearly all of the big Pass amplifiers over the last decade, there’s a sweetness here that doesn’t even exist in the mighty (nearly 100k/pair) XS Monos. As mentioned earlier – each Pass amplifier has its own sonic signature.

These are absolutely lovely and, at this price, a tremendous value as well. If you’d like to read an in-depth review, these amplifiers are featured in our current issue.

$14,250/pair (silver)

$15,250/pair (black)

Vera-Fi’s Main Stream is anything but…

Mark Schifter and Vera-Fi have been on a roll lately, introducing some great products offering high performance at reasonable prices. This is a great way for everyone to get into the game. If there’s anything you don’t want to skimp on, it’s power cords and power conditioners. Cheap power conditioners don’t have enough current bandwidth to prevent compression of the audio signal or, even worse, altering tonality.

Main Stream’s passive nature prevents this from happening to your system. Its underlying tech, which we will explore in the full review, makes it easy to install and doesn’t require buying another power cord to make it work. Not much bigger than a standard prescription bottle, its triangle shape is machined from billet aluminum and plugs right into the wall.

My reference system uses two separate 15A and three separate 20A circuits. Initial listening begins with the 15A circuit powering the Pass XS preamplifier, Pass XP-27 phono stage, and dCS Lina DAC/clock/headphone amplifier. The extended review will explore plugging into systems large and small, and perhaps we can even talk Vera-Fi out of a couple more of these.

The $299 question is always (for me, anyway): Does said component or accessory reveal more music proportional to the price asked? Certainly, in my main system, using the highly revealing Clarisys Audio Auditorium Plus speakers, the answer is yes immediately.

Starting with relatively average-sounding digital tracks makes it easiest to hear the Main Stream effect instantly. Streaming Robert Plant’s Sixes and Sevens is full of drum machine antics that are now made more palpable with the Main Stream present. Running through a varied playlist, from solitary female vocals to piano and other acoustic instruments, all deliver the same results. The Main Stream is more than worth the price asked, and the results are consistent across music genres.

The clarity of the overall presentation the Main Stream delivers feels more profound after 24 hours, and whether that is due to break-in or familiarity requires more investigation; however, removing it from the wall after 24 hours makes a significant difference with less resolution and smoothness (from having it out of the system) now easy to discern.

The speakers and amplification for your hi-fi system usually deliver the largest gains for cash spent, with cables and accessories a bit less. It’s still important to look at everything else you change as less dramatic but no less significant. Just like fine-tuning your speakers for optimum placement and turntable setup if you are an analog enthusiast, the Main Stream will make a similar contribution to your system.

We’ll have a wider-ranging analysis soon, but this one gets a solid “buy” from me. I’ve spent more on turntable mats, clamps, and even fuses that delivered far less (if any) real improvement. This is a solid upgrade and, even at this point, worthy of one of our Exceptional Value Awards.


intro priced at $235…  


Cover Story

Now in Black:
Pass Labs XA60.8 Monoblocks


Old School: SONY’s SCD-1
by Jeff Dorgay

1095: JBL L52 by Rob Lawrence

The Audiophile Apartment: Jerold O’Brien’s final review,
a new power strip from ISOTEK!

Journeyman Audiophile: Back next issue

Headphone Arts:  The Spectacular Top Phones from Meze!

Mine: It Should Be Yours

Future Tense: Gear in our immediate future


Killer Analog from Luxman: The PD-191A
You can’t resist the Borg Episode 2 from FinkTeam
MonAcoustics stunning Platimon Monitors
Great power cords for entry level gear from Wireworld